Opposition frustrated with delay in hearing of 2015 Elections Petition

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…draws attention to the urgency such cases are given in other countries

Opposition leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

Frustration over the long delays in the hearing of the 2015 Elections Petition filed by the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has been expressed by the Opposition, through its Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.

Jagdeo was at the time commenting on President David Granger’s statement about revising the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) structure, which is currently using the Carter Formula.

The Opposition Leader lamented that the People’s National Congress (PNC), which is the largest party in the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) alliance, never had an issue with the composition of GECOM before but with the elections results.

On this note, he posited that unlike the actions the PNC took when they lost the 1997 elections, the PPP is still awaiting the court to fast-track its elections petition that was filed following the 2015 polls.

“Until now, we can’t get our court case heard which is in itself an indictment of this Judiciary and those who now run the Judiciary.” Jagdeo, who is also the General Secretary of the PPP, went on to draw attention to the urgency such cases are given in other countries.

“…An elections petition must be heard urgently, continuously. Look at what is happening in so many countries in Africa, within a month-three weeks, the courts get together, they hear the petition and they make a ruling so they can move forward. This case, we’re on three and a half years and we’re no closer to getting it heard,” he asserted.

After losing the 2015 General and Regional Elections by just over 4500 votes, the petition was filed on behalf of the PPP/C, seeking to challenge the validity of the outcome of the 2015 General and Regional Elections which it said were not held in conformity with the Constitution of Guyana.

The matter, which was filed in the name of PPP/C parliamentarian, Ganga Persaud, essentially requested a recount of all ballot boxes for the last elections and fresh elections were also called for. He had claimed that the elections were “unlawfully conducted” and that the results of the elections were affected.

He cited procedural errors and instances of fraudulent and/or suspicious actions during the elections. Unrest, fake Statements of Poll (SoPs) and multiple voting were among the reasons for the petition. Further, the presence of ‘huge mobs’ at several polling stations and other strategic places, particularly in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), were also cited by the party as another cause for intimidation and fear.

But the Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield had described the petition as frivolous and vexatious. He said too that the petition discloses no reasonable cause of the action and asked for it to be struck out.

But before demitting office, former Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang overruled Lowenfield’s summons to have the petition struck out. Justice Chang had ruled that the summons to strike out the petition was premature and therefore the court should proceed in hearing it.

Attorney representing Lowenfield, Roysdale Forde, had filed an appeal and further disclosed that Chang erred in law when he failed to direct his mind to the summons and to apply the proper principles applicable to the striking out of the petition.

Forde said the Judge erred in law when he made a finding and determination with respect to Article 163 (1) of the Constitution of Guyana and its relationship with Section 42 of the National Assembly Validity of Election Act, Chapter 1:04 without affording the Appellant an opportunity of responding to the said finding.

The appeal of the former Chief Justice’s ruling is currently in the Full Court of the High Court before acting Chief Justice Roxane George and Justice Franklin Holder, pending a verdict.

With the petition still languishing in the High Court for more than three years, the Opposition has since announced its intention to approach the Court of Appeal to fast-track the case.

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